Robert Heffernan leads the 50km race walk at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow (Getty Images) © Copyright
Preview Beijing, China

Preview: men’s 50km race walk – IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015

Defending champion Robert Heffernan from Ireland has shown little form to indicate whether he is in shape to successfully defend his title, but the resilient 37-year-old believes he has shrugged off the niggling injuries that plagued him earlier in the year and hampered his training.

“I feel good,” said Heffernan in an interview just over a week ago with his local media.

“My training has gone well enough in the last month that if I’m in a good place mentally and physically in Beijing then I can give a good performance. Hopefully, I’ll have a good result again. I want to win a medal, I’ve always wanted to win a medal, if I can control what I can do and deliver a performance.”

His one and only outing on the roads this year was when he finished fourth over 50km at the IAAF Race Walking Challenge competition in Dudince, Slovakia, back in March when he clocked 3:48.44.

Since then his only other races have been over short distances on the track, over 5000m in July and 10,000m in August.

The man who won in Dudince was Slovakia’s 2014 European silver medallist Matej Toth, and he did so in a world-leading time and national record of 3:34:38, the third-fastest time in history and almost six minutes faster than anyone in the world has recorded this year.

In the absence of France’s world record-holder Yohann Diniz, Toth can be considered to be the favourite. The extrovert Heffernan might have something to say about that status, though, and Jared Tallent is always a formidable competitor; the Australian has won the bronze medals at the past two World Championships.

Tallent has not raced over 50km this year and is also down to race in the 20km event six days before, a distance at which he also has medal prospects, so much will depend on how he recovers from that outing.

“I always like racing in China" Tallent said recently. "I’m familiar with it, I am comfortable with the climate and environment, I have been here a lot of times and I have done well here in the past."

Japan will send a strong trio in search of their first medal at this event.

Hiroki Arai, second on the 2015 world list, has improved to 3:40:20 this year when winning the Japanese title while his compatriots Takayuki Tanii and Yuki Yamazaki finished second and third in that race in seasonal bests of 3:42.01 and 3:43:40.

Polish race walkers Rafal Augustyn and Lukasz Nowk, who will be watched by their national hero and three-time winner Robert Korzanowski who is also in Beijing, also have medal chances. They have both gone inside 3:45 this year and have the experience to get on the podium.

Phil Minshull for the IAAF